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  • May

    Nightmare Over - Orioles win in ten innings 3-to-2

    Written by Mike Laws

    Nightmare over

    Gonzalez’s stellar outing, Dickerson’s two homers pave way for McLouth walkoff

    New York Yankees 2, Orioles 3


    Everyone cool if we amend the adage to pitching, defense and three one-run homers? It’s not quite as tidy as with the Earl of Baltimore’s preferred three-RBI shot, but it’ll certainly do — and not without a certain justice, given the way the Yankees kept themselves in the previous ballgame: On Monday night, the loathsome Bombers won in ten, largely on the strength of four solo blasts. Tuesday, it was the Birds’ turn.


    On to the bullet points. They’re gonna look glorious:


    • That we can credit a lot of Tuesday night’s walkoff win to the Baltimore defense is a somewhat ironic, unexpected thing, given the way this ballgame started: A mere three pitches in, Brett Gardner sliced a long liner tailing toward the corner in left, where Nate McLouth, despite running it down, couldn’t reel the ball in on a last lunge. Two batters later — which is to say two more Yankee fly-balls later, one of them deep enough to center to move Gardner to third — Travis Hafner continued his tour of destruction, ripping a one-hopper past Oriole second baseman Yamaico Navarro, who laid out on the backhand but, like McLouth, couldn’t snare the shot, which ticked off the leather and sputtered into the outfield. 1-0, Yanks … 


    • And following a couple of scoreless innings — Phil Hughes surrendering a leadoff single to McLouth, but nothing else, through two; Miguel Gonzalez settling in nicely for the Birds, retiring seven straight Yankee hitters (three of them on strikeouts) — the battle between Hafner and Chris Dickerson was on. Dickerson, manning center for the O’s on a night where Adam Jones was DH’d, led off the Oriole third with an epic at-bat, clawing out of an 0-2 hole, fouling off four more Hughes offerings and working the count full before unloading on the tenth pitch he saw, depositing the ball some 410 feet away into the bleachers in right-center. And while old man Pronk would restore the Yankee lead a half-inning later, beating a grounder into the hole between first and second after Vernon Wells started the frame with a double, Dickerson was up to the challenge, repeating the leadoff trick in the Baltimore fifth — though this time he’d need to see only three pitches before turning on Hughes’s 1-1 fastball, sending it out onto the flag court. 2-2 …


    • And while it’s true that in both innings in which Dickerson homered the Orioles would squander opportunities for further damage, leaving men at first and second in each frame — failing, in the fifth, to make hay out of an error on what should’ve been a double-play ball to second off the bat of Manny Machado — let’s focus on the job done by Gonzalez and the defense behind him. Because, with the exception of that one-run fourth, the Oriole starter (and resident Yankee-killer) was exceptional, in this one, retiring the side in order in the second, third, fifth and sixth — and getting some help, in the process, from Navarro et al. In the second the Oriole second baseman ranged deep behind the bag to his right to take a base hit away from David Adams, pivoting to throw from the outfield grass. He’d outdo himself in the very next frame, leaping at full extension to flag down a looping Austin Romine liner that seemed destined to fall into right-center, thereby keeping that all-important leadoff runner from reaching base. All of which ensured that Gonzalez’s evening required a minimum of deliveries; by the time his work was done — seven complete — the Baltimore starter had hurled just 92 baseballs, yielding two runs on five hits, with five K’s. Not too shabby at all. And on that 92nd delivery, with Adams having singled with two away in the seventh, Gonzalez got some more glove-love, with Nick Markakis charging to his right, toward the gap, leaving his feet to flag down Jayson Nix’s dying liner and hold the Yankees at bay …


    • A good thing, too, because the Oriole offense would remain silent through the late innings, notching only a pair of infield singles (Navarro and Dickerson, natch) off the Yankee relief corps of Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Preston Claiborne. (Dickerson’s single — to short — being noteworthy in that his grounder, while not drilled, or anything, was also pretty much as routine as they come — but the Oriole center fielder beat the relay easily. Must’ve reminded a certain Yankee outfielder, watching from the dugout, of the way he used to leg ’em out, in his prime.) Anyway, the Oriole bullpen would match the effort, with a spot-on Tommy Hunter working a happily uneventful eighth and ninth …


    • After which, to get the extra frame under way, out came Jim Johnson. In a non-save situation. Reminding probably everyone present of not only those three recent meltdowns, but also game one of last season’s divisional series, when the Oriole closer, called upon to keep the game level at 2, promptly surrendered … well, you remember what happened. Anyway, probably it was the case that what cheers greeted Johnson all hailed from the Yankee fans present at Oriole Park; you could practically hear the collective “Oh, no” from the home fans … But the thing was, Johnson didn’t just hold the New Yorkers off, tonight — he needed only eight pitches to do so (with Adams and Nix flying and popping out on one and two pitches, respectively). Exhale …


    • Whereas, in the Oriole half of the extra inning, McLouth — also apparently recalling his excellent ALDS performances — wouldn’t need to see many more offerings before putting an end to this one. The plucky Oriole left fielder took the third delivery from lefty matchup man Vidal Nuno way, way out to right-center, into roughly the same swath of bleachers graced much earlier on by the first of Dickerson’s blasts — and also earning Johnson what must be just about the sweetest of W’s. 3-2, Orioles, is your final. 


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